Radio host and Fox News personality Sean Hannity applauded and seemingly claimed credit for a federal judge's district court ruling in Pennsylvania that found President Obama's executive action deferring deportation for millions of undocumented family members of U.S. citizens or lawfully permanent residents to be unconstitutional.
The Washington Post's Volokh Conspiracy blog reported that Judge Arthur Schwab, appointed to the federal bench by President George W. Bush, "declared aspects of President Obama's executive actions on immigration policy unconstitutional," in a first of its kind opinion that is already being criticized for reaching beyond its scope to decide a constitutional question not before it.
Upon hearing Schwab's opinion, Sean Hannity wasted no time claiming partial credit for the decision. On the December 16 edition of The Sean Hannity Show, he said of the ruling, "I gotta tell you something, it almost could've been written by me, because he makes the very arguments that I had been making the entire time."
Hannity's guest, Jamie Dupree, agreed that the ruling "echoes a lot of the arguments that Republicans have been making about these actions over the last few weeks."
In fact, the Republican arguments, promoted incessantly by figures like Rush Limbaugh and Hannity, have been rejected as baseless by most legal experts across the political spectrum and President Obama's recent actions have ample precedent in the past executive actions of former presidents like Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush.
Two years after the fact, right-wing media are trying to flip the narrative that sunk their presidential aspirations in 2012 by charging that current personal wealth and the fees for paid speeches since leaving the State Department make former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton "out of touch." Often aided by Beltway reporters who are fixated on Clinton's so-called "money problem," conservative pundits are trying to dispel any narrative that supports the majority of Americans's belief that the potential Democratic nominee for president can relate to and understands average citizens.
The facts show that Clinton's earnings on the speaking circuit are consistent with a number of men of similar prominence. According to one estimate, over 15 months from the end of her term as Secretary through May 2014, Clinton made $5 million dollars. In the 13 months before former Mayor Rudy Giuliani ran for president in 2007, he earned more than $11 million dollars, charging anywhere from $100,000 to $300,000. According to a number of reports former Secretary of State Colin Powell has received between $100,000 and $200,000 per speech, earning an estimated $6.7 million in speaking fees in 2000 alone.
As the charges against Clinton illustrate, the GOP still doesn't understand why the "out of touch" label resonated with voters in 2012. It wasn't former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney's wealth, or that he did well financially during his time at Bain Capital. Rather it was the GOP presidential nominee's comments writing off 47 percent of the American electorate, claiming they just wanted "free stuff," as well as his support for massive tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans as a job creation strategy while imposing steep spending cuts impacting everyone else.
In short, Romney really WAS out of touch. While the Clintons have done well financially since President Bill Clinton left office, Secretary Clinton has been consistent in her support for issues like increasing the minimum wage, paid family medical leave, and support for equal pay. She also has a long record advocating and supporting policies around the economic empowerment of women, the role they play in a nation's economy, and micro-lending, from her time as first lady of Arkansas to the White House to the State Department to the Clinton Foundation.
Enter former Florida governor Jeb Bush to the 2016 equation. Based on the conservative line of argument against Clinton, will the millions he's made on paid speeches since leaving office in 2007, or the $3.2 million in board fees and stock grants he's received from publicly traded companies, also label him "out of touch" in the eyes of conservative media? What about his million-dollar salary from Barclays or what the New York Times termed his "unapologetic determination to expand his wealth," including "telling friends that his finances had suffered during his time in government"?
Or, will conservative media hold Bush to the same standard they did for Romney in 2012, when they declared that neither his wealth, his offshore accounts, nor his record at Bain Capital were relevant issues in the election in evaluating Romney's candidacy? Back then such concerns were "an effort to distract" from real issues like jobs and the economy, as one Fox News anchor put it. Never mind that it was Romney himself who held out his Bain experience as evidence that he understood the economy and how things worked, yet didn't seem to have much regard for the impact of jobs lost when Bain shut down a company had on the personal economy of middle and low income people.
Even Romney now admits that his work at Bain Capital was a liability to his presidential aspirations, recently suggesting that because of his work in private equity Bush may also have a "Mitt Romney problem." Or as described by a recent Bloomberg Politics report, "As a budding private equity mogul, he's begun to resemble a Mini-Mitt."
The report examined a number of Bush's private sector enterprises, but it's the detail about the three funds he's launched through Britton Hill Holdings, which he co-founded in 2013, that could require some explaining. They include a $40 million fund focused on shale oil exploration and a $26 million fund called BH Logistics, which is backed in part by investors from China, where the Bush name carries significant clout. Bush was also recently named chairman and manager of an offshore private equity fund called BH Global Aviation. Incorporated in the United Kingdom, the firm is not subject to U.S. taxes or regulations and raised $61 million in September through unknown foreign investors.
Over the weekend Bush said that in an effort to promote transparency, he'd be releasing 250,000 emails from his time as governor of Florida and an e-book outlining his approach to governing. Those efforts will help frame his position on issues like education reform and immigration reform, which put him at odds with the Republican primary electorate and parts of the conservative press.
But given that its unlikely right-wing media will hold Governor Bush to the same standard as Secretary Clinton, will Bush also be transparent about the details of his time in the private sector? More broadly, will the media fully examine the "potential political problems" of Jeb Bush's "unapologetic" expansion of wealth?
Fox News used the Sydney, Australia hostage situation to question whether Australia's strict gun laws should be loosened, but offered no commentary on Pennsylvania's relatively looser gun laws in their reports the same day when a man went on a shooting rampage, killing six. Americans are murdered with guns at a rate more than ten times greater than Australians.
On December 15, Fox News heavily reported on a hostage situation in a Sydney, Australia chocolate shop. A man, who according to authorities had "a long history of violent crime, infatuation with extremism and mental instability," used a shotgun to hold café patrons hostage for 16 hours. After gunfire was heard police stormed the shop. The hostage-taker and two hostages were killed. One hostage was reportedly killed while trying to disarm the hostage-taker, while it is unclear if the other one was shot by the hostage taker or caught in the crossfire.
As Fox reported on developments out of Sydney, the conservative network also provided updates from Pennsylvania where Bradley William Stone allegedly went on a shooting rampage, killing his ex-wife and five of his former in-laws. One former in-law was wounded. Police are currently searching for Stone. (UPDATE: Stone has been found dead, reportedly of self-inflicted wounds.)
Tellingly, Fox News used the Sydney incident to raise questions about Australia's gun law system, while raising no such questions about looser gun laws in the United States during December 15 and December 16 mentions of the Pennsylvania spree killing on Fox programs Fox & Friends, Fox & Friends First, The Five, On the Record, America's News Headquarters, Special Report with Bret Baier, Shepard Smith Reporting, The Real Story with Gretchen Carlson, or America's Newsroom.
United Nations delegates have gathered over the past two weeks to discuss action on climate change. Fox News only covered the talks once, to warn that they were "breaking down," but ignored the deal reached Sunday morning: a pledge from every nation to reduce greenhouse gas emissions responsible for climate change.
On Saturday, December 13, Fox News' America's News Headquarters reported that the United Nations climate talks were "breaking down." The international negotiations took place over a two-week stretch in Lima, Peru, and were supposed to conclude Friday, December 12, but were extended one day to ensure that countries could reach an agreement. Fox News reported that "countries can't agree on what nearly 200 nations should pledge to keep our air clean":
But an agreement was, in fact, reached early Sunday morning. On December 14, the United Nations' chairs released a document called the "Lima Call For Climate Action," which ensured a pledge from every country to lower their greenhouse gas emissions. The pledge states that countries must aim to phase out fossil fuels and achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.
The agreement itself is somewhat contentious among environmental advocates, some of whom call it too "weak." Others heralded it for paving the way to a more robust deal at the U.N. climate negotiations in Paris next year. And the agreement's geographic scope -- a pledge from each and every country -- is considered a "breakthrough" by Harvard economist Robert Stavins. Political scientist David Victor said that the voluntary nature of the agreement is actually a good thing, in an interview with Vox:
Victor has long argued that UN negotiators would never be able to impose a climate plan on reluctant countries from on high. Instead, any climate deal should work from the bottom up -- start with what countries are actually willing to do and slowly build from there. And that's essentially taken in these latest climate talks. It's not enough to avoid drastic global warming-- not yet, at least. But it may be a step forward from past gridlock.
Yet Fox News has made no mention of this agreement since its Saturday report that the talks were breaking down.*
A former Fox Sports analyst-turned-hate group spokesman couldn't bring himself to disagree with a radio show caller who suggested that gay people who file discrimination complaints against business should be killed.
In September of 2013, Craig James was fired from his job as a football analyst on Fox Sports due to anti-gay remarks he made during a failed 2012 Senate run. His termination made him a celebrity among anti-gay groups, and he was eventually hired as an assistant to Tony Perkins, president of the extreme anti-LGBT hate group Family Research Council (FRC).
During the December 12 edition of FRC's "Washington Watch" radio program, James spoke with a caller who suggested that gay people who filed discrimination complaints against anti-gay business owners should be put to death. "I don't know," responded James, before adding that Christians "have to be bold and firm and much stronger" in their opposition to LGBT equality:
JAMES: Thank you Phillip. You know what, that part there, I don't know about the executing, but I do know that we have to be bold and firm and much stronger. God doesn't tell us and calls us that we have to be timid and to stand for our straight -- our beliefs. I'm doing a course right now in seminary and it's the history of the early church and it's fascinating, there's been lots and lots and lots of men and women who have died for their Christian beliefs since the beginning and now we are in a time in this country and in this world where we must be bold and stand for God and His truths.
James' ambivalence about whether gay people should be put to death is - shockingly - not totally unprecedented at FRC. The extreme hate group previously praised Uganda's notorious "kill-the-gays" law for upholding "moral conduct."
Fox News obscured the fact that Republican lawmakers are holding renewal of a terrorism insurance program hostage in order to continue chipping away at financial regulatory reform.
The Terrorism Risk Insurance Act (TRIA), first passed after 9/11 and subsequently renewed by Congress, allows the federal government to aid insurance companies in providing terrorism insurance to businesses. One of the biggest beneficiaries of TRIA are professional sports organizations like the NFL.
If TRIA is not renewed, these organizations could lose terrorism insurance coverage. Thus on the December 15 edition of Fox & Friends First, Fox Business contributor Lauren Simonetti claimed that the Super Bowl may be in danger of cancelation. According to Simonetti, "The reason is Congress," adding "unless this act is reauthorized by the end of the year," the Super Bowl could be canceled:
Conservative media had worked to cast Murthy as a radical for his uncontroversial stance that gun violence is a public health issue and criticized his supposed lack of qualifications.
The conservative media attacks against Murthy began in early March. Coverage of his nomination focused on his past acknowledgement that gun violence affects public health, which conservative media spun as evidence Murthy is obsessed with gun regulations. (Murthy has actually said his focus as Surgeon General will not be on gun violence, but rather obesity.)
Fox contributor Katie Pavlich claimed that Murthy is "rabidly anti-gun" and "must be stopped," and Fox & Friends co-host Peter Johnson, Jr. argued that, if confirmed as Surgeon General, Murthy would make the examining room about "about party registration or about gun registration" rather than medicine. Fox hosts also worked to downplay Murthy's considerable accomplishments and suggested that he was unqualified to be "our nation's doctor" because "he hasn't done much in his career yet," all while arguing he would turn the Surgeon General role "into a hyper-partisan position." These arguments became the basis for an extended smear campaign on Fox News and conservative blogs.
In fact, Murthy's stance on firearms is common within the medical community. The American Medical Association (AMA) agrees that gun violence "has reached epidemic proportions" and has argued that the medical profession carries an obligation to combat gun violence. The Institute of Medicine has also advocated for a "public health approach" to fight gun violence. Furthermore, Murthy's credentials were endorsed by a broad array of health care groups including the American Public Health Association, American Academy of Pediatrics, American Cancer Society, American Diabetes Association, American Heart Association, and Trust for America's Health.
After nine years at the helm of The Colbert Report, where he turned his brilliant right-wing persona into a sprawling marketing empire (see your grocery's freezer section), explained super PACs to everyday Americans, enlightened us about divinity, and added "truthiness" to the nation's vocabulary, Stephen Colbert says his farewell to the Colbert Nation this week to become CBS's new Late Night host. (Sans persona.)
For nearly ten years and more than 1,400 episodes, Colbert remained a constantly amusing and insightful part of our national dialogue. "Fans of the show and its indomitable host (only now defeated by the real-life lure of late-night respectability) have good reason to mourn," noted The New Yorker earlier this year, while Salon recently crowned Colbert "one of the most important figures in U.S. political comedy of all time."
By embracing the absurd and truly embodying it, Colbert has made politics and public policy uproariously funny, while providing much-needed bouts of sanity for devoted news junkies.
His satirical voice won't be gone completely, of course. Colbert's late-night colleague Jon Stewart continues to soldier on with The Daily Show, that show's alumni John Oliver is doing fine work at HBO, while another, Larry Wilmore, readies his turn to take over Colbert's late-night Comedy Central slot.
But there's no denying Colbert's exit from Comedy Central marks a cultural and political milestone of sorts. The exit is disheartening not only because the genuine laughs will be missed, but because Colbert's satirical work has been instrumental in spearheading progressive arguments and critiques for years.
Colbert's departure also reminds us how hollow conservative comedic efforts have been, as they fail to play catch-up in the cultural war of political satire. Humor remains a rhetorical weapon that American conservatives simply cannot harness.
Maybe that's because political comedy usually doesn't work well when it's anchored in seething hatred or even casual contempt, the type that conservatives hold for President Obama. Political satire works best when it's fueled by curiosity, bewilderment, annoyance, and with a dash of self-righteousness mixed in. And for nine years, Colbert has been deftly mixing that cocktail on The Colbert Report.
The Sunday broadcast political shows overwhelmingly ignored the omnibus spending bill's rollback of key regulations on Wall Street and campaign finance. Only ABC's This Week covered the provisions, which come at a time when the financial services industry and large donors are playing an increasingly outsized role in elections.
Congress' controversial $1.1 trillion spending bill to avoid a government shutdown took several days of debate to pass in the Senate and barely passed through the House of Representatives, due to the inclusion of provisions "easing rules on campaign finance and the banking industry," as NPR explained.
The deal reverses a requirement of 2010 Dodd-Frank financial reform, allowing banks to "place both standard accounts and accounts that handle riskier derivative trades under the protection of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp." The provision was drafted by Citigroup bank and provides a major benefit to big banks that allows riskier trades and transfers accountability for banks' failures -- and potentially future financial crises -- onto the government and taxpayers. The bill also rolls back campaign finance regulations, dramatically increasing the limit wealthy individuals may donate to national political parties.
This erosion of key Wall Street and campaign finance regulations was all but ignored on the broadcast Sunday political talk shows. Neither NBC's Meet The Press, CBS's Face The Nation, nor Fox Broadcasting Company's Fox News Sunday acknowledged the controversial provisions in their discussion of the spending bill, glossing over the specific rollback of regulations in favor of general discussions on inner-party divisions on the vote. Only ABC's This Week highlighted the provisions. Host Martha Raddatz explained how the bill "dramatically ease[s] restrictions on the amount of cash individuals can donate to campaigns," while a later panel discussion emphasized the rollback of Wall Street regulations.
The shows' failure to cover the rollback of banking regulations and systematic erosion of campaign finance comes at a time when dark money, large donors, and outside spending are playing an increasingly outsized roll in elections and the financial services sector -- the very industry which drafted and stands to benefit from the Dodd-Frank reversal -- is already outspending all other industries in midterm elections.
Fox & Friends Sunday repeatedly spliced footage of Al Sharpton speaking at a Washington, D.C. "Justice for All" march with footage from a separate event in New York City where some in the crowd chanted for "dead cops" to claim Sharpton is "calling to kill cops."
The December 14 edition of Fox & Friends Sunday opened with video from a December 13 march in New York City where some protesters chanted, "What do we want? Dead cops. When do we want it? Now." Co-host Anna Kooiman set up the footage by saying, "Thousands march with Al Sharpton against the police," and later promised "more from Sharpton's 'March for Justice.'"
But the footage of protesters chanting anti-police slogans was not from Sharpton's December 13 march, which The Washington Post described as a "peaceful civil rights march led by families of the slain and organized by the Rev. Al Sharpton's National Action Network."